I majored in brunchology

Yesterday Heath and I had the opportunity to host a stock-the-bar couple’s brunch for our soon-to-be-married pals Mark and Ranjana. It was our first go at hosting a bridal-ish type shower, and I’m not gonna lie, I was a little anxious about it. Normally I’d give myself some prep time before hosting a monumental party for a few friends. You know, spend the day before making a few dishes, cleaning the house, hanging streamers and performing other party prep procedures. Unfortunately, I was shooting a wedding all day on the Saturday before, so party prep would be limited to only a couple of hours on the morning of. That in mind, I opted to forgo dazzling decorations and spend my energy instead on creating a menu that would fill up the masses yet still have the element of intrigue and in vogue you would expect of food stuffs at a bridal brunch.

Here’s what we came up with:

Egg, sausage, jalapeno and cheese braidThis recipe came from MyRecipes.com and seemed like it had all elements you would want in a brunch dish: egg, cheese, meat and spice.  I also like that it included the word “braid” which, to me, screams “HEY!  THIS DISH IS NAMED AFTER A HAIRSTYLE. THERE IS NO MEAL GIRLIER AND MORE APPROPRIATE FOR A BRIDAL BRUNCH THAN THIS.” Of course, when it was all said and done, I didn’t end up braiding the thing at all and instead just sort of folded the dough over the yummy gooey egg filling…sort of like making a bed. Braid or no braid, the dang thing was pretty good. We actually modified the recipe a bit besides just skipping out on the braid. Instead of real sausage, we went with a veggie variety so our vegetarian friends could get in on the action. And we used whole wheat pizza dough instead of regular flour–not out of some grand scheme to be healthier, it’s just all that H-E-B had during our trip to the grocery store. If I make it again, I think I’d try and sub pizza dough for crescent roll dough, which is sweeter and flakier and fits the brunch motif a little better than thick and chewy pizza dough. Either way, served with some salsa, the breakfast braid bread was a winner.

The fixins on the dough before folding it over.

The bread waiting to go in the oven.

On the table and ready to eat.

Migas Casserole. I basically made this recipe up but I love it because it’s fast, easy and flavorful.  The idea is simple enough– sautee onion, tomatoes, peppers, cheese and pieces of corn tortillas with oil and cumin, cover with egg mixture and bake. Voila. in 20 minutes you’ve got a ready-to-eat casserole that feels slightly exotic if not intriguingly spicy. Plus, with peppers and tomatoes instead of sausage and bacon, you can feel a little less guilty about going for a second piece.

Migas Casserole

Banana Cinnamon Waffles.  Heath is the designated waffle maker in the house, and for years has been using a tried and true recipe borrowed from the Martha Stewart Living Cookbook. But because we were trying to give this brunch a little flair, Heath decided to step it up and add banana, cinnamon and brown sugar–at Martha’s suggestion. It was an incredible addition and we ended up with sweet and moist waffles that mimicked the flavor of banana bread.

Waffles so sweet, syrup is no longer necessary.

We also incorporated fresh fruit, smoked salmon, peach salsa and crackers. And we had a few other friends pitch in with smoked brisket and a crock pot hash brown dish.

The goods.

All of that food paired with either a bloody Mary or mimosa made for a brunch that was almost as delicious as the beautiful betrothed coupled themselves.


Brew Haha

This weekend Heath and I met up with pals at the 2012 Texas Craft Brewers Festival at Fiesta Gardens on Lady Bird Lake.

There were dozens of micro brew booths at the fest, which, according to our buddy and home brew aficionado Mike, was twice as many as were in attendance at last year’s gathering. Yes, the surge of micro breweries in Texas has quite literally doubled over the past year, and you won’t hear any complaints from us. And considering that micro breweries may be one of the only industries not in recession, it seemed like the only American thing to do was to get out there and grow the economy, one beer at a time.

The selection at the fest pretty well covered the spectrum of beers: dark and light, bold and mild. We got to taste 6-oz samples from some of our old favorites like Live Oak and some new ones like South Austin Brewery.  Neither of us are much in the way of beer experts, but we do know a good beer (and a bad one) when we taste it.

The satisfying and sobering Blogworthy concoctions included:

  • Flying Monk by Adelbert’s Brewery—A rich and nutty brew that’s as delicious as it is dangerous at 10% ABV.
  • Saison D’Austin by South Austin Brewery— A beer on the dark side with a little kick and spice but still goes down smooth.
  • Das Wunderkind by Jester King Craft Brewery— A sour beer, which is apparently “in” right now but looks like foggy water and tastes like vinegar. (In other words, don’t do it.)
  • Smokin’ Beech by Circle Brewing Co.— An unusual, thick beer with smokey flavors that aren’t overwhelming but definitely get the taste buds tingling. I could get down on a pint, but think I would need to switch to something less anomalous after that.

Good beers or bad ones, we enjoyed ourselves sipping on cold and distinctive brews on what was the first chilly day of fall, overlooking the lake and chatting with pals. I imagine we will be back at next year’s fest, especially when I know it makes Heath so happy.

 


Party Paper

In preparing for Cinco De Mayo festivities, I have kicked my Google ogling into high gear to find ideas for paper party paraphernalia. Is there any holiday that embraces the paper decorations quite like Cinco De Mayo? I don’t believe so. Works for me, as I love channeling my inner child by busting out the paper and scissors to create party decor that gives me the appearance of being a with-it, crafty, Martha Stewart-esque homemaker. Plus it’s cheap. So, you know, win-win.

Guess what Mr. Heath is going to be helping me do this evening…


Acting Irresponsibly

Mom to me: So in between all of this traveling back and forth to Denton for wedding responsibilities and working on house projects, when are you finding time to have fun and do your own thing?

Good point, Mom. It is high time I started being way more selfish and irresponsible.(What? That’s not what you meant? Well, that’s how I’m taking it.) I mean, when your own mother points out the fact that you are kind of being a lame 20-something-year-old, you really owe it to yourself to pick up the partying pace. Don’t mind if I do take a weekend off from painting and pruning to indulge in some merriment.

The first non-home-improvement related activity of the weekend: backyard party and musical extravaganza.

Our friends Tristan (musician) and Monte (intellectual) hosted a backyard shindig to celebrate the former’s birthday. Among other things, their late-night get-together featured a keg-loving kitty and live performances by Your Friendly Ghost. We’ve experienced a healthy variety of interesting party panoramas (including a cheap beer taste test and drinking among living manikins at The Gap to name only two), and this one lacked the grandeur of some of our other weekend romps in terms of food or fanfare, but was nonetheless a thoroughly enjoyable evening (completely free of drying Spackle or matching paint colors). After all, it’s not every day you’re granted front-row seats to an exclusive musical performance from one of Austin’s most talented up-and-coming bands. Point, Robinsons.

For day 2 of our vacation from renovation we went to the Live Oak Brewing Company on the East side for the local microbrewery’s 15th anniversary celebration. I attended an eerily similar event last year which I blogged about here. The biggest difference between that event and this one is mostly (and by mostly, I mean totally) in the numbers (14 years vs.15 years). The party was pretty much identical to the previous celebration…from the music talent, to the weird school bus themed bounce house, to the tortilla wrapped bratwurst. But it was free beer (the best in Austin), free food and perfect weather…so not at all something at which to turn up your nose.

 

From there we wandered to campus to hear Minus the Bear play at 40 Acres Fest. The annual concert is free for all, and in the past has hosted much bigger players like Little Richard and The Roots. This year’s show was much more scaled down than others I had experienced, and probably drew about 1/4 of the crowd, though even then, I’d venture to guess there were 400 or so MTB fans in attendance… mostly (as to be expected) students. Heath and I felt like old codgers in our folding lawn chairs off to the side of most of the concert action, but still had to hand it to ourselves for making it out after several hours of day drinking.

Lucky for us, sound was still pitch perfect from our side seating…AND we got to see the most ridiculously huge Texas flag hanging from the main building and acting as a backdrop to the emo/rock music. So, no curtain hanging this weekend, but definite flag hanging for sure…in fact, I’m fairly certain I’ve met my Texas flag quota for the year.

On Sunday we finally broke. We had to stop at Home Depot to get a few knick knacks for some side projects we have planned for later in the week. After all, we’re only human and can’t be expected to stay away from our calling for long. So I guess the weekend wasn’t COMPLETELY without thought of home improvement projects.

To make amends for our infidelity, we opted to spend the later morning/early afternoon taking in Sunday brunch and cocktails at Nomad. The neighborhood bar has time and time again won awards from The Austin Chronicle for having the best bar staff and being one of the best neighborhood bars, and it’s my prediction it won’t be too long before it gets a nod for its brunch. The brunch, by Mark Rivas Catering, is $13 for all you can eat brunchy goodness that includes a waffle bar, omelet bar, fruit bar and 23480234234 other options that get me in a tizzy. Admittedly, I probably love it so much because it’s walking distance from the house and has an option for bottomless mimosas, but since moving to the new casa, it’s been tough to abstain from brunch binges at Nomad.

And just like that, our weekend was done. We tended to the chickens and watched the latest episode of Mad Men, but other than that the house was unchanged. On Monday morning, the old house looked just as she did on Friday afternoon.

I know when my mother said we should take time for ourselves, she didn’t so much mean “take time to party, and sleep in, and be lazy.” She meant take time to  travel and explore and experience new things, which is still on the docket for a weekend in the very near future; but heavens, I did enjoy my weekend of reckless disregard for my status as “homeowner” and drinking adult beverages with child carelessness.  Still, I might be a little excited about returning to my rightful role of diligent caretaker to the doodle manor in the coming days.


Hearty Party

I had ulterior motives when I offered to host this year’s Super Bowl party–mostly I wanted to choose the menu. I’m not a picky eater but Heath and I have been on a health binge lately and I wanted to keep the menu tame-ish. Maybe some hummus instead of home fries and quinoa instead of queso. I carefully constructed a veggie heavy menu and set out for Central Market to acquire the ingredients. The menu would be a fresh (but still delish) alternative to traditional Super Bowl fix-ins.

The Menu
-Quinoa Tabbouleh
-Veggie Shish Kabobs
-Southwestern Bean Salad
-Guacamole
-Red Pepper Hummus
-Fresh veggies for dipping
-Jalapeño hot dogs (because, well this is still America and it’s still the Super Bowl)

I spent almost all day preparing. I was going to make fans out of my non veggie-loving friends even if just for one night.

“Oh no,” I told my guests. “You don’t need to bring anything. We’ll take care of it.”

Those were famous last words. Somehow during the course of the evening, things took a turn and I learned a valuable lesson: don’t tell your food-loving friends to bring “nothing” to a party.

The good…

The Bad…

The Ugly…

By the end of the night I had nibbled on a carrot or two, sure, but also downed a bacon milkshake, fist fulls of pizza dip, mac n cheese, creamy jalapeno dip, peking duck and more. I was grateful for the whirlwind tour of terribly unhealthy edibles, but I did have a killer food hangover the next day.

Maybe I’ll lose the weight by next year’s party.


Ski

I’m not a skier.

My friends and skiing compadres told me that when I was 15 just after I mistakenly darted through a half-pipe at 90 miles an hour, narrowly missing my fellow terrain park ski bums. That was fine with me. As far as I was concerned I could go the rest of my life without setting foot or ski on another slope. Texas has a shortage of snow-capped mountain peaks anyway, so what did I need to know how to ski for?

As it turns out, when your buds Maranjanark offer up their family’s condo in Vail for a long weekend of gratis mountaineering, you don’t exactly turn them down. So, away we went with a few other snow-loving Austinites for a post-Christmas friend trip to the great state of Colorado.

I’d had one other brush with Vail before taking off. A summer Vail vacation with my family when I was 13 was pretty enjoyable until a 40-year-old naked male sunbather opted to position himself right outside our condo window. Heath knew only that Vail was “where rich people go to ski.” So that’s what we were working with. Vail: a destination for the wealthy and naked.

The trip to Vail proved neither pricey nor scantily clad. The little mountain town does rob you blind with $100-a-day lift tickets, but that was about as bold as we got when it came to emptying our wallets. We saved a chunk of change by cooking at home rather than shelling out dollar after dollar at over-priced downtown restaurants. (Like seriously over-priced, we’re talking the neighborhood of $9 for a warm Bud Light…cruise ship expensive.) So rather than wine and dine in town, we munched on breakfast tacos by Nick, Mark’s meatloaf and Jaime’s Oreo cookie balls. At nights we drank boxed wine on the couch and enjoyed locally brewed beer over riotous games of Things. Perhaps it’s not how the rich and famous (and naked) do Vail, but it is how we rolled on this particular MLK weekend.

We did live it up too, of course. There was mountain skiing (no half-pipes this time), ice skating, gondola riding, snow tubing, city walking, photography jaunting (I feel like Vail is a place people “jaunt”), snow ball throwing, salad bar cruising, brewery touring, Australian tourist meeting and even heated pool swimming.

We packed a lot of living into 3 days of vacation, but as all trips by privileged 20-somethings go, it was the company and conversation, not the location, that made the weekend getaway one for the books blog.

 

 

 

 


Falling in the Gap

Do you mean fall into the Gap?

No. I mean falling in the Gap. Falling because you’ve just finished your second bottle of Shiner Cheer and you  keep tripping over dozens of living manikins while making your way to the sushi buffet.

And no, again. I’m not talking about a trippy dream but rather the Free Drink Party hosted at our friendly neighborhood Gap last Friday. Gap celebrated…winter(?) last weekend with a free-for-all party that featured free beer and cocktails, food from Roll On Sushi, a live DJ and tons of living, breathing, walking (no talking, though) models. I was a little hesitant to attend an FDP at the Gap (the place where I bought most of my childhood back-to-school clothes), but it turns out combining seasonal styles with seasonal brew is a genius publicity stunt. Midway through beer number two, we started filling our mental shopping cart with all the scarves, mittens and sweaters we could handle. Not sure how many of us returned to Gap the next day to pick up the items we eyed the day before, but its safe to say Gap made off with a small fortune.

Job well done, Gap, for creating as fine a sweater as you do a party.


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